LONDON — A couple of weeks earlier than her London Fashion Week present, scheduled for Sunday, the prizewinning dressmaker Grace Wales Bonner was wandering round a present of a special sort on the Serpentine Sackler Gallery right here.
Titled “A Time for New Dreams,” it was stuffed with images, sculpture, sound, movie and even a shrine-like meditation house, and had been curated by Ms. Wales Bonner and the gallery employees, conceived as a sort of backdrop to her coming fall assortment present.
Understand the one, she urged, and you’ll have a greater understanding of the opposite. For anybody attempting to reply the perennial query of “the place on the earth did that designer provide you with that thought?” the exhibition is successfully a primer on a trend artistic course of.
“It’s important that there is no hierarchy between practices,” mentioned the 28-year-old, who was carrying a Céline skirt (outdated Céline) and a shirt of her personal design as she walked via the house, explaining how the reveals by, or about, her literary and inventive heroes impressed her work.
According to Ms. Wales Bonner, they supply “an insight into my mind, how I put things together but also the context within which the characters and the collection emerges.”
So right here had been two material sculptures by Eric N. Mack, a Bronx-based textile artist and painter chosen as a result of, Ms. Wales Bonner mentioned, “his work connects to research I did in textiles and how you can integrate rhythm into aesthetic practice.” Mr. Mack additionally created a backdrop set up for the designer’s fall 2018 present, and labored along with her on a hand-painted madras checked shirt for her spring 2019 assortment.
Nearby had been two day beds — purple oak frames lined in genuine zebra skins — by the conceptual artist Rashid Johnson, based mostly in New York. Ms. Wales Bonner mentioned the beds reminded her of straightforward picket altars in addition to “suggesting an environment that a sophisticated black leisure class would inhabit,” whereas the Persian rugs beneath every “give a sense of grounding and connects to different histories.”
Elsewhere, a sound set up by Chino Amobi, the Richmond, Va.-based musician, artist and co-founder of the NON Worldwide document label, labored to “acknowledge where you come from and how you got here and all the people who have sacrificed or created work to give other artists, younger artists freedom,” Ms. Wales Bonner mentioned. (One of Mr. Amobi’s sound works created final yr was known as “Ancestors.”) And then there have been the texts by the Nigerian novelist Ben Okri — considered one of Ms. Wales Bonner’s favourite writers, whose 2011 assortment of essays, “A Time For New Dreams,” gave the exhibition its title — scattered throughout the gallery’s white partitions.
(The exhibition, initially scheduled to shut Saturday, has been prolonged to March 17.)
The thought for the exhibition and for the 70-piece assortment, Ms. Wales Bonner mentioned, was to stretch her typical deal with black masculinity and sexuality — she started as a males’s put on designer — to discover the lifetime of the black mental. And the problem, she added, was methods to talk cerebral concepts through clothes and natural supplies.
She mentioned she considered Howard University, the historic black establishment in Washington, D.C., whose chamber choir soundtrack is included in Mr. Amobi’s set up. Which led her to collegiate dressing within the 1980s, the period of lots of the inventive and literary figures featured within the exhibition. Which led to the precise trend, together with her variations of varsity jackets, Oxford shirts, the Mac raincoat and even a white tuxedo.
“I was looking at the ways that you can kind of embed those very American pieces of clothing with a sense of magic or sense of ritual that comes from Africa,” Ms. Wales Bonner mentioned. “So embroideries have a sense of magic.”
In follow that meant that the sort of sequined flags used to evoke spirits in Haitian voodoo ceremonies had been embroidered onto a varsity jacket, and the names of literary works and their authors, reasonably than the standard athletic crew insignia, had been emblazoned on sports activities shirts.
Styles based mostly on clothes as soon as worn by the artists and writers represented within the exhibition additionally had been built-in into the autumn assortment, which is titled “Mumbo Jumbo,” the identical identify because the disorienting 1972 voodoo novel by the American author Ishmael Reed (represented within the exhibition in movie and textual content).
But the designs, which embrace some girls’s put on, had been interpreted “in a way that I feel that is relevant to this time,” Ms. Wales Bonner mentioned.
So David Hammons’s thick herringbone coat, which the American artist wore within the 1980s, has change into a herringbone jacket with voodoo-inspired feather trims, and in addition impressed a trucker jacket with leather-based patches and an oversize coat. And Mr. Okri’s scarves, an adjunct he has favored for years, are referenced within the assortment’s scarves. Fabrics made by Mr. Mack, reflecting the identical collaging and dyeing methods he makes use of to rework outdated scarves into textile sculptures, had been used for a kimono, pajamas and shirts.
Early plans are for the style present, to be held within the gallery, to be a shifting presentation created by M.J. Harper, the dancer and choreographer who often collaborates with Ms. Wales Bonner, reasonably than a standard runway march.
The purpose is to speak the identical connections expressed by Trent Lafond, a 20-year-old mannequin who wore the gathering’s kimono on the exhibition’s preview. “I’m aware it’s an artwork,” he mentioned of the garment. “But the first thing I noticed was how comfortable it is, so it makes me feel more confident.”